Legends of Photography: Atiba Jefferson



Andy and Atiba Jefferson catch up about their early days of working together and discuss the similarities between photographing basketball and skateboarding. Jefferson just shot his 100th cover for Slam Magazine and has photographed skateboarding extensively for over 20 years. 

“My thing is to see the world from the best perspective. I think if basketball didn’t have street culture it wouldn’t be the freshest sport out there. I saw the same thing about skateboarding. It gives me this different perspective,” Jefferson said.

While growing up in Colorado, Jefferson studied Slam Magazine and got into skateboarding and skate culture with his twin brother Ako.

“We’d go to downtown Colorado Springs, there was a park called Acacia Park. And that changed our lives,” Jefferson said.

“At this time, I was studying Slam magazine. I studied the greats in skateboarding. Slam was a great magazine to see basketball through the eyes of a younger audience – it was young, it was hip hop, it was everything I loved about basketball.”

Jefferson saw Bernstein’s byline in Slam and then discovered his book, NBA Hoop Shots: Classic Moments from a Super Era. 

After moving to California, Jefferson connected with Joe Amati, of NBA Photos, and eventually became an assistant to Bernstein.

“I saw this advice to every young photographer, assisting is the key. Pay attention to everything you do because the free education you get from working with a master is priceless,” Jefferson said.

Bernstein and Jefferson reminisce about a photoshoot of Kobe Bryant they did at Jimmy Goldstein’s iconic house. It was an L.A. Times Magazine fashion shoot with more than ten looks in a single day. 

“It was so cool to see. Kobe’s hype was building but he wasn’t the champion yet. It was interesting because he was so young, so curious, and so involved with the shoot,” Jefferson said. That shoot led Jefferson to a friendship and eventual working relationship with Kobe.

He and Bernstein collaborated on other shoots throughout the years and captured some iconic moments together, like Kobe’s last game in 2016.

“I think sports photography is sometimes not given credit for its artistic value. If you take a step back and look at sports photography from an artistic point of view it’s very complex,” Jefferson said.

Listen to the full podcast here. Watch the video of the podcast on the @legendsofsport YouTube channel.


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